It's the moment almost all Bucs fans have been waiting for - Greg Schiano is no longer you Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach.
It's a relief that, after weeks of media reports that suggested that Schiano would ultimately be safe, the Glazers did the sensible thing and got rid of Schiano, following a humiliating 42-17 beat down in New Orleans at the hands of the Saints. Of course, humiliation and embarrassment have been far to familiar to the team in 2013, and Greg Schiano deserves a lot of the blame for it - it wasn't injury, or lack of talent, or extenuating circumstances that led to Schiano's firing, but his own lack of ability to function at the pro level combined with the embarrassment he brought to the Glazers and the Buccaneers name.
Schiano was hired in 2012 after an exhaustive head coach search that saw the Bucs being the last to fill their head coaching vacancy by quite a margin. A protoge of Joe Paterno who spent three years coaching in the NFL with the Chicago Bears under Dave Wannstedt, Schiano was brought in to be the antithesis of the laid-back, player-(too) friendly Raheem Morris, pledging to establish a "Buccaneer Way" filled with "Buccaneer Men" and infusing the team with an ethos of "Trust, Belief and Accountability".
The coach then immediately set about weeding out players who didn't fit his vision of that "Buccaneer Way", including Kellen Winslow, Dezmon Briscoe and Brian Price. In what would be a foreshadowing of perhaps his worst off-field coaching move a season later, he immediately put LeGarrette Blount on notice, saying that the team needed a "bell cow" running back in sheer defiance of the rest of the league's tendency to RB-by-committee. His tough, hard-line style was criticised by some, most famously by the then-dismissed Winslow, but was supported by others who recognised that Raheem Morris had run far too lax team.
After starting 1-3, which featured the most debated kneel down of the 21st century, Schiano's team had a post-bye week turnaround in marked fashion, winning five of their next six games to put the Bucs in potential playoff position at 6-4. Unfortunately the wheels came off on both sides of the ball, leading the team to finish 7-9, which, due to a three-way tie, saw them finish 4th in the NFC South for the second consecutive year - the first time a team has ever finished last in back-to-back years in the NFC.
It was an offseason filled with media scrutiny, a result of both the intrigue that came with a much-mooted, and eventually executed, trade for Darrelle Revis, and of a move Schiano pulled that was reminiscent to his early statement on Blount soon after he was hired: putting Josh Freeman on notice. It was a move that brought the national sporting media to Tampa, putting both head coach and quarterback under the spotlight. It's hard to believe that Schiano didn't know what effect his words would have, and it elevated the the Bucs to being relevant on the national stage - for all the wrong reasons.
Fuel was added to the fire when Mike Glennon was drafted (though ultimately having a back up plan for Freeman very clearly was the right thing to do), then exacerbated when Josh Freeman was not voted a team captain for the first time since his rookie season. What followed was a war of attrition played out in the media through leaks upon leaks. Though we may never discover the source of the leaks (though it would be churlish not to point out the leaks suddenly dried up once Freeman was cut), it should be mentioned that one of the first major blows was Schiano's decision to let slip in a press conference that Freeman missed the team photo - without mentioning that he was not the only Buccaneer to miss that photo, as Booger McFarland revealed later on 98.7 The Fan. Regardless of who was the source of leaks, the entire situation was terribly handled by Schiano and the wider Buccaneer organisation.
Indeed, nothing might have more doomed the Bucs' season than the clear disconnect between Schiano and Mark Dominik. When we had an exclusive sit down with Roy Miller earlier this year, he made it apparent that the head coach and GM were in separate camps (pointing at his own being allowed to walk in free agency as an example of that) - which appeared to reinforce an early-season report from Jason La Canfora. No where was this perhaps clearer than the Darrelle Revis aquisiton. With the defensive staff refusing to change from their man-heavy schemes, the Bucs went out and got the best corner in the NFL in Revis, at huge expense, as he should have been a perfect fit for that man-press scheme requiring corners to play on islands.
Except the coaching staff did decided to change the secondary coverage from being predominantly man, with poor ill-equipped corners, to being predominantly zone, now that they had a truly elite corner on their roster. The mind truly boggles.
Of course, you cannot ignore the on-field failings of Schiano as head coach. After going 7-9 in 2012, he could only lead the Bucs to four wins in 2013, with only one of those - a shellacking of a broken-down Falcons team - being anything like a decisive, dominant win. In his first season, the Bucs defense - of which he, not Bill Sheridan, was the architect - came just a few yards shy of being the worst pass defense in history, while in his second season, the so-called disciplinarian saw his team set a new franchise mark in penalties in a season - as damning evidence as there could be that he failed to make a real change from the team under Raheem Morris. What's more, he managed to do less with far, far more than Raheem Morris ever had. The Glazers were clearly ready to 'win now' by the amount they authorised Mark Dominik to spend in the previous two offseasons. Greg Schiano, from the schemes he employed and philosophies he dictates on both offense and defense, appeared prepared to win in the 1970s.
The blitz-heavy defense, imported from Rutgers, suffered particularly on the back end. 2012 saw extensive and practically exclusive use of man coverage, typically with just a single high safety, allowing Sullivan to dial up all the blitzes he was so fond of. It didn't end well for the team, especially when starting CB duo Aqib Talib and Eric Wright were suspended due to PED use, with the former eventually being traded at the deadline to the Patriots. With EJ Biggers and Leonard Johnson now being asked to play man-press on receivers, with only an out-of-position Mark Barron playing single-high deep centerfield over the top, it was unsurprising that the Bucs came just a few yards shy of putting up the worst single-season passing defense of all time.
Without possessing the corners you need to play that scheme - guys who can effectively play on an island - a good coordinator should look to playing more zone coverage, where weaker corners can get more help. It took Sheridan until Week 17, against the Falcons, to finally do so - despite the fact that the team had at one point been 6-4, in position of a playoff spot, but kept losing games because the secondary gave up last-minute drives. So, as mentioned above Dominik went out and got Revis specifically to play in this man-heavy scheme... only for the coaches to switch to a zone-heavy scheme, a scheme which would have been oh-so-helpful to Biggers and Johnson in 2012, but effectively wasted Revis in 2013.
On offense meanwhile, Schiano insisted on an archaic offensive philosophy that wasn't helped by Mike Sullivan's inability to execute such a scheme. I already touched on the fact that Schiano wanted to go the opposite way from the rest of the league in having just one "bell cow" back; he likewise wanted to 'take shots down the field', but this insistence became shockingly predictable, and so the brief stretch of offensive production was shut down soon as the tendencies became clear. Without demanding more from his offensive coordinator (and with many speculating he had his hand in the offensive gameplans, which consisted of heavy running on first and second down - no matter what distance - leaving his quarterbacks in routinely difficult third down situations), Schiano failed to bring the team's offense into the 21st century. It's fitting, therefore, that in his final season as head coach, Schiano oversaw a Buccaneer team who finished last overall for the first time since 1983 - about the last time the Bucs' offensive scheme would have worked.
In between the national scandal, on-field incompetence and ultimate failure to even reach the low standards set by his predecessor, despite being afforded more talent and spending money than Morris could have dreamt of, ended in the only way it could have: with Schiano gone from Tampa Bay.